The Collision Chronicles: The invisible collisions we need to see

The Collision Chronicles: The invisible collisions we need to see

I believe we’re at a turning point. We can cede our streets to dangerous people and vehicles, or we can stand and fight to reclaim them.

This isn’t a post I wanted to make.

For years now I’ve debated internally (both in my mind and in talks with colleagues) about what to do with all the messages we receive from people who have been involved in collisions. Things like hit-and-runs, collisions between people biking and walking, scary road rage behavior (a type of mental collision), and so on. Unfortunately there are more of these than you think. That’s because unless it’s a fatality/very serious injury or it has some novel or interesting aspect to it, the police don’t put out statements on them. And the local media won’t pay attention for similar reasons.

Even here at BikePortland, we don’t always have the time or the inclination to make a full, Front Page story out of each collision story we receive — no matter how sad they are for those involved.

As a result, all these collisions, all this carnage, all these people’s lives changed forever, go unnoticed by the public, the media, policymakers and elected officials. This has nagged at me in these past few weeks more than ever as I’ve been forced to come to acknowledge that our roads are indeed becoming more dangerous for unprotected users.

I’ve also weighed the pros/cons of publishing these because of concerns about scaring people away from cycling. I still believe that’s a real risk.

Recently though, given what I feel is a crisis on our streets where we’re at a turning point of either ceding our public space to dangerous vehicles and irresponsible people who operate them — or standing and fighting to reclaim our streets once and for all — I’ve decided to try something new.

Similar to what we did to raise the profile of bike theft, we’re going to start publishing these stories as they come in. They won’t all be posted here on the Front Page, but they’ll be easy to find on the site and we’ll share them on social media.

In order to fully acknowledge the reality on our streets for vulnerable roadway users and to start the work that needs to be done to change this reality, I believe we have to keep our eyes wide open.

Here’s the first one:

Received 7/2/16:

Hi, my partner [name redacted] was involved in a hit and run/road rage incident last night and the police were not exceptionally helpful. I just wanted to see if there was anything you guys could do to potentially help us push the police to catch the guy that attacked him.

He was riding up N Williams and a man cut him off by taking a left onto Williams. My partner flipped the guy off after he had cut him off. The driver was ready to make a right and had a turn signal on, but at the last second chose to swerve across traffic and into the bike lane. The driver, who was also speeding, grabbed [name redacted]’s backpack shoulder strap and yanked him into the side of his car. The driver took off and ran several red lights and then took a right onto Skidmore. After the driver yanked him into his car and let go, [name redacted] flipped end over end and landed on his face. The impact was so hard his earrings fell out. His bike frame smashed into his knee and it’s very swollen. His bike was fine and he managed to make it home.

He has a good description of the car and a license plate # number that is incorrect, but could potentially be close. There were also several witnesses who gave their phone numbers to [name redacted]. When we called the police, we were told absolutely nothing would happen, because he didn’t see the drivers face and the license plate was incorrect, but the officer was sympathetic.

So, in short, a driver did a really fucked up thing, the police weren’t helpful and we need help to make sure this guy gets what he deserves.

When I read these I don’t just consider the specific details of each case, I look for larger trends. After posting a lot of these, you might notice trends too. Those are the things we should start to focus on.

As always, I learn a lot from your feedback and I want to hear it (good or bad).

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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